Chicago, Illinois, March 27, 2020 – As Americans grapple with controlling the spread of the coronavirus, now’s a necessary time to reflect upon the strength and resolve of the nation for tackling problems in a unified manner.   Given the depth and scope of this epidemic, the full social and financial effects continue unraveling across all sectors of the economy, including the commercial real estate sector.  Ultimately, however, the American spirit will prevail and beat this epidemic, as it has in past crises.

As an example, just over a century near the end of World War I, Spanish influenza created havoc similar to today.  The epidemic spread, resulting in a global death toll of as many as 100 million people.   Yet Americans fared than other countries by acting quickly and aggressively, with Chicago serving as an excellent example of how to deal with this flu.

The flu arrived in Chicago by September 1918, killing over 8,000 people within two months. According to health records from September 21, 1918, to November 16, 1918, nearly 38,000 cases of influenza and 13,109 cases of pneumonia were reported – a relatively low death toll compared to other cities.   Chicago took many precautions. For instance, the Commissioner of Health made influenza a reportable disease on September 16, and the Health Department printed placards to educate the public about the dangers of spitting, coughing and sneezing.  The Commissioner also urged people to stay home if they were sick.

Chicago’s additional efforts included limiting crowds by closing theaters, dance halls, skating rinks, and other venues, as well as prohibiting public funerals.  Unlike today, schools remained open, as the Health Department decided children would be better off in school.  Teachers and nurses could monitor students and take preventative measures instead of staying at home unsupervised.  On October 13, officials prohibited smoking on the street and elevated railroad cars, and this order remains in force until this day, long after the Spanish flu had passed. [i]

Today, Chicagoans take the coronavirus very seriously, as the City’s most prominent streets are nearly deserted during rush hour, as never seen before per the following photos.  Hopefully, these streets will return to “normal” very soon.

In conclusion, America’s “Yankee Ingenuity” and Chicago’s “I Will” spirit both will prevail by conquering the COVID-19 virus and other future challenges.

May God bless you, your family, friends, and coworkers for continued health, happiness, and success.  Please stay safe.

John Oharenko,


The Real Estate Capital Institute®

[1] SarahD. “Chicago Fought to Limit Flu’s Spread During 1918 Epidemic.” Chicago Public Library. Accessed March 26, 2020.

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